The Senate debated a total of 15 bills today. A few were carried over for further action with the mostly non-controversial bills passed. You can read the list of bills we debated and passed at this link. Of note, SB44 – the bill I’ve sponsored returning Driver’s License fees back to the original amount prior to February 9th passed today. If you are not familiar, I recommend you read more background on this legislation here.
SB71, a bill making changes to the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) was debated and passed after several amendments. This bill expanded the current program from $25M to $30M (SB71 originally had $35M but was amended down to $30M) along with making some other program and administrative changes. I support the AAA but do not feel that we have enough data on hand after only one year to support expanding the program and therefore did not support passage of the bill in the final vote.
Tomorrow will be a busy day; I have 5 committee meetings with a total of 22 bills that will be debated...some light reading ahead of me for the evening.
I will close tonight’s blog by providing the text of comments I made from the Senate Floor earlier today. These were made in response to Governor Bentley’s visit to Huntsville last week as he solicits support for his tax increases.
Semper Fi – Bill
In Huntsville he urged a group of about 100 local elected and community leaders to encourage lawmakers to support the tax plan even if they may have campaigned on a pledge of not raising taxes. Well, I thought I’d give an update. As of today, five days after the Governor’s visit to Huntsville– I’ve not received a single phone call, text message or email asking me to support his tax increase proposals...not a single one.
But make no mistake, I have heard from people in the community, oh they are contacting me – the working people in the community, those I visited with during the re-election campaign just a few short months ago. I wish that I could share a few of their emails but time does not allow. Comments range from – “don’t back down”, “my family and I support your no new tax position”, “we pay enough taxes already”, ...Bottom line, not a single person has asked that I reverse my position and support the proposed tax increases.
I’ve heard from others, I’ve even received a policy document from the Heartland Institute – a national non-profit regarding their views on the negative impact of the proposed taxes in our state such as the tax increase on cigarettes.
I’ve heard from the CEO of Huntsville Utilities regarding their position on the proposed utility tax increase. In his words – this will result in a $13M impact to Huntsville Utilities, an impact that cannot be absorbed by Huntsville Utilities and will be passed along to local residents - the very residents I stand here representing today. In a press release, Huntsville Utilities stated that it "strongly opposes" the plan and if passed would place a "significant hardship" on the elderly and the poor. Huntsville Utilities is a member of the Electric Cities of Alabama – other communities include Decatur, Dothan, Florence and Muscle Shoals and I’m certain we will hear more from them in the days ahead.
I also have a letter from the Chairman of the Huntsville New Car Dealers Association asking – in their words – that I not support this ill-advised plan.
Governor – I’m listening to the people I represent, retirees, blue collar and white collar workers, local business owners that employ theses hard working Alabamians. Again – not a single person has contacted me asking that I support your tax plan.
I am concerned with our budgets but my greatest concern is with continuing to grow our state’s economy through economic development opportunities. I know the Governors of surrounding states are watching as are the businesses that are considering relocation or expansion in the south east. We need to do everything we can to attract businesses – not give them a reason to look elsewhere. Raising taxes and stalling road projects are what they are hearing.
At the Huntsville meeting, a local city councilman asked the Governor about suspended road funding in our area because of my stance on new taxes. The Governor stated and I quote “you tell them (meaning local residents) to encourage their legislators to do what I want to get done and we'll do it."
So the stage is set – as we all know these tax increase bills will start in the House this week. It will be interesting to watch the actions of committee members who will first take up these bills as they decide whether or not to support the Governor’s tax increase proposals and as the Governor continues to threaten to stall road projects in areas that do not support his proposals. It is worth pointing out that none of these tax increases directly fund roads.
I will do my part and continue to work with the Budget Chairmen to live within our means and balance our budgets without raising taxes.
Thank you for your attention.